Economic Nationalism and Globalization, Evidence From China (Belt and Road Initiative)

Economic Nationalism and Globalization, Evidence From China (Belt and Road Initiative)

Yang Liu (Southern New Hampshire University, USA) and Fabio Massimo Parenti (The Italian International Institute Lorenzo de' Medici, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7561-0.ch004


Nationalism can manifest itself in different forms. It is not only closing the door to the other nations (autarchic policies). On the contrary, sometimes it exhibits as crazy expansion, combining autarchy and imperialism. Economic nationalism presents contradictions. Nowadays, in front of the experience of globalization, driven by the so-called “Washington consensus,” we do witness new projects coming from the PRC. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), formerly known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), is the most important economic policy for China in the 21st century and represents at the same time a new idea of globalization, based on cooperation instead of a sharp competition. On the other hand, countries located in and around this area have their own views regarding this program, positive and negative. This chapter attempts to provide a deep understanding of the economic nationalism concern through the BRI program.
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Globalization is a term that every person is using but the meaning is multiple, depending on the perspective adopted. According to Meydan Larousse, the origin of “global” means “undertaken entirely”; it also means “homogeneity” in French. Therefore, in sum, the word “global” means “entirety” and “homogeneity” in western languages. The word “globalization” may ground to the term “global village”, named by Marshall McLuhan in his book “Explorations in Communication” in 1960. In the book “Global Modernities” published in 1995, Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash, and Roland Robertson explained the theoretical definition of the term “globalization”. It is also defined as “fast and continuous inter-border flow of goods, services, capital (or money), technology, ideas, information, cultures and nations” by the American Defense Institute. In addition, the American Defense Institute infers that economies will be integrated through the globalization processes, accompanied by the internationalization of corporations, organizations, markets, and governments (Dulupçu & Demirel, 2013).

Thereby, we can see globalization as a process of interaction of national policies and economies. On the other hand, the debate on globalization has brought to light two main standpoints with a broad heterogeneity of temporal references.

There are those who believe that globalization is a phenomenon which already existed between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Hirst & Thompson, 1999; Frieden, 2006), or that it even evolved in harmony with imperialism and European colonialism since 1492 (Swyngedouw, 2003; Harvey, 2000; Shiva, 1997). Conversely, other authors, sociologists, and political scientists believe it is a completely new phenomenon (Held-McGrew, 2000; Scholte, 2005), a product of the radical reorganization of trans-planetary and supra-territorial human activities. This latter standpoint could be partly included in the so-called ‘geo-economics of neo-liberal common sense’ (considering the success of the theses by Thomas Friedman), that notwithstanding the diversity of analysis, offers an a-geographical, fluid and flat view of the world, marked by the processes of deterritorialization and extra-territoriality (Sparke, 2004; Smith, 2005). However, the geographical concept of globalization can be restricted to the last thirty years during which capitalism has been radically reconfigured and reorganized (Harvey, 2006, 2001, 1990; Brenner, 1999; Brenner & Theodore, 2002). This is not to deny deep historical continuities of globalization in colonial and imperial eras (nothing comes from nothing), but rather to affirm the importance of analyzing the most recent space-time discontinuity.

From our point of view, the concept of globalization exists as a purely geographical concept referring to complex territorial forms/spaces taken on by capitalism in the post-bipolar period. Some radical geographers have made significant contributions to unraveling the complexity and originality of the social, political and economic geography of globalization. The analyses of the capitalism spatial evolution by Brenner (1999, 2002), Swyngedouw (2003), Harvey (2006, 2001) and Arrighi (1994, 2007) provide an understanding of the historical reasons responsible for the present reconfiguration of the nation-state and the globalization processes.

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